Ukraine could have avoided both the civil war and economic collapse, had the authorities in Kiev launched a constitutional reform matching the interests of the Russian-speaking population of Donbas a year ago, polled experts have told TASS.
At the end of February 2014, immediately after power in Ukraine changed hands, the Verkhovna Rada voted for a bill declaring Ukrainian as the sole state language, while Russian was given the status of a regional language. Although the Ukrainian president has not signed the bill into law, the proposed controversial piece of legislation sparked unrest in the southeast of the country. On April 15, Kiev launched what it called an "anti-terrorist operation", which has now ended in utter failure. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, by the end of March 2015 the hostilities had claimed 6,083 lives and left 15,397 people injured. The United Nations has registered 1,178 million refugees, with the population of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions on April 1, 2014 standing at 6.568 million.
Last May, referendums in the southeast of Ukraine proclaimed the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics. By coincidence, exactly one year after Donetsk and Lugansk shrugged off Kiev’s control President Pyotr Poroshenko on Monday, February 6 declared the beginning of a constitutional reform.
The director of the Globalization Problems Institute, Mikhail Delyagin, argues that the constitutional reform in Ukraine is at least one year late. "Moreover, the country’s decentralization which the head of state has proposed in reality is deceit, just as many other fine intentions proclaimed by the authorities in Kiev," says Delyagin, a member of the international discussion club Valdai. "The constitutional reform promises no real local self-government rights to the regions in question. Naturally, the leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics do not support it," Delyagin told TASS.
"The main result of this year for Ukraine is naked-clear. Attempts to suppress the legitimate demands of the population in the southeast with military force, in fact, a variety of Nazism, has proved loss-making economically. In January through March Ukraine’s inflation sky-rocketed. Kiev predicts this year’s economic slump of 5.5%, but in reality the economy will be down by more than 10%, as follows from Kiev’s official statistics. Kiev’s analysts are not to be trusted. The authorities in Kiev say the work load on the Donetsk airport in 2014 declined by 70% But the whole world knows that nothing but ruins is now left of the once busy air hub," Delyagin recalls.
He suspects that the constitutional reform talk is just a ploy, a cover-up of preparations for resumption of combat operations against the Donetsk and Luhansk republics. Of late, the Ukrainian military stepped up the bombardments of Donetsk. In order to keep at bay the frustrated 35-million population who see no economic prospects for themselves Kiev has just one resource left - going ahead with the so-called ‘anti-terrorist operation’ in an attempt to excuse its current policies," Delyagin believes.
The head of the international development directorate at the Institute of Modern Development (INSOR), Sergey Kulik, says the military crackdown on Ukraine’s southeast has had a multiple effect: heavy casualties, large-scale destruction in Donbas and the collapse of the Ukrainian economy. The hostilities have kept foreign investors away from Ukraine. The tranches the IMF and the European Union have agreed to grant are way below Kiev’s real needs. The country’s gold and foreign exchange resources have dwindled as war spending has soared. In fact, the country is bankrupt," Kulik told TASS.
"In February 2015 the International Monetary Fund agreed to extend a loan of $17.5 billion over a period of four years, but the country remains on the brink of default. After the government coup in Kiev in February 2014 that propelled the current authorities to power Ukraine has managed to get only three billion dollars of the $15 billion Russia had promised," he recalled.
"The West is unable to cope with the task of settling the crisis in Ukraine and preventing the country’s economic collapse on its own, without Russia’s participation," he went on to say. "This explains why Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande came up with the idea of concluding the Minsk Accords and why in Brussels the possibility is being explored for cooperation between the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Community," Kulik explained.
"Ukraine is fragmented: there is the ruling establishment and the people. Their interests are different," the director of the Center for Military and Political Studies at the Moscow Institute of International Relations, Aleksey Podberyozkin, has told TASS. "For fly-by-night rulers last year was an excellent chance to build up personal wealth. The former governor of the Dnepropetrovsk Region, Igor Kolomoisky, is an example. In the meantime, the living standards of Ukraine’s population have slumped by two-thirds. The country has experienced deindustrialization, and with the exodus of able-bodied and draft-age population to Russia and to Europe Ukraine has developed a distinct depopulation trend. Moreover, even the rather artificial entity called the Ukrainian citizens has ceased to exist," Podberyozkin said.
"Geopolitically the United States, which provoked the government coup in Kiev, had attained its aims by creating a trouble spot near Russia’s border and a sanitary cordon between Russia and the European Union," he concluded.